Public Speaking – The Most Important Part

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With the wealth of information available at our fingertips, it is interesting to note how little is said about our most valuable asset or ‘commodity’ in public speaking. We are so consumed with learning the best means of creating and delivering our material that our focus often ignores our objective in presenting.


Look at Webster’s definition of public speaking: the art or science of effective oral communication with an audience. Which word do you think is your ‘commodity?’ If your answer is audience, then you are correct. Without an audience, the most dynamic delivery and the best-crafted speech or presentation is of no value.

Of course, your audience may be a given. You may be taking a class in Public Speaking; possibly you are a member of Toastmasters; you might be giving the budget report for your Rotary Club; or, you could be toasting the groom at a wedding. In all of the above situations, the room will be filled whether you speak or not.

On the other hand, it is possible that you are the reason you will have an audience. You may be holding a webinar or you might be offering a presentation in your community; perhaps you are speaking at a book store or a library; or, maybe you are one of a select few on the roster at a 7-day home show or flower convention. In each of these scenarios, your audience has chosen to attend, which means they have gone out of their way to listen to you speak. In some of these cases, they may even have paid a fee.

►Researching your audience is part of your homework if you wish to be successful.

Whether you are speaking to inform, to persuade, or to inspire, do you think it is important to address the needs of your audience or are you more concerned with addressing your own needs?

In one of the college classes I was teaching, one of my students gave a presentation on ‘overclocking’ the processor in your computer. Not only was this topic too complex for the students; but, had the class actually understood what he was talking about and taken his advice, they could have done irreparable damage to their computers. This young man should have tailored his material around a topic that the average student would understand.

►Knowing your audience is fundamental in addressing their needs.

Some years ago, I was invited to speak at a Lion’s Club dinner meeting. Having successfully spoken to many Rotarians in the past, I wrongly assumed that the members of the Lion’s Club would be similar in temperament. At the dinner, several in the room proceeded to drink quite heavily and became rather boisterous. I realized that voice improvement was not going to be a memorable subject for them so I switched my topic to Podium Power and opened my presentation with a joke. And, it worked!

In this particular situation, the joke was crucial because I gained their attention immediately. And, because many of the members would probably be speaking in various capacities within their organization or at the state or national level, the change in topic was the right approach. Voice training would have bored them; presentation skills, however, was most appropriate.

While good presentation skills and finely-honed material are critical, knowing your audience can often be the difference between success and failure. Whether you are hoping to become the next Anthony Robbins or you just want to impress your fellow Toastmasters, treat your audience like your most valuable ‘commodity’ and your success will be guaranteed!

The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice and presentation skills as well as Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. Visit Voice DynamicYour Least Developed Tool! and watch Nancy as she describes

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